Mexican Fruit Bats, Jamaica.


Archived exhibitions are no longer available for booking but are maintained as a virtual record of past Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) programs.

Whether underground, underwater, or within ice, caves have attracted explorers since the days of early man. Adventurers and scientists have long entered these hidden chambers in search of their astonishing stone formations, unusual wildlife, and the thrill of exploring part of nature that few have seen. Today, many cavers combine their spelunking skills with photographic expertise to bring these extraordinary places to light.

Caves: A Fragile Wilderness , an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, features photographs of caves from around the world taken by 23 members of the National Speleological Society.

Caves are among the world’s most remote and fragile places. With their intricate passageways and dramatic formations, no two caves are alike. They provide essential habitats for unique plants and animals, some of which spend their entire lives in the dark. Caves often carry water from the surface to underground aquifers, from which most of our drinking water originates.

Human activities both above and below ground now threaten these hidden worlds. Carelessness, ignorance, and intentional vandalism can quickly, and permanently, damage a cave, its formations, environment, and the creatures that live within it. Once destroyed, a cave and its contents cannot be recovered.

Caves features 39 color photographs of caves from Alaska to Malaysia and seven text panels. The elegantly framed photographs are organized into four sections—Entrances, Passages, Formations, and Life—with descriptive labels included in the framing package.

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Exhibition Specifications

Contents 39 framed color photographs, text panels, labels

Educational resources, PR materials

Participation Fee

$2,500 for a 8-week booking period, plus outgoing shipping


60 running m (150 running ft.)

Crates 5

770 kg (1,700 lb.)

Category Science & Natural History
Security Moderate
Shipping Outgoing
SITES Contacts

Ed Liskey, 202.633.3142 (Scheduling)

Toured Through Extension through April 2008
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Tour Itinerary

Dates   Host Institution Status
11/9/02 1/5/03 Oglebay Institute, Oglebay Park, Wheeling, WV Booked
1/25/03 6/8/03 Liberty Science Center, Jersey City, NJ Booked
6/28/03 8/24/03 American National Fish and Wildlife Museum, Springfield, MO Booked
9/13/03 1/25/04 Alabama Museum of Natural History, Tuscaloosa, AL Booked
2/14/04 4/11/04 Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago, IL Booked
5/1/04 6/27/04 Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Providence, RI Booked
7/17/04 9/12/04 Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta, GA Booked
10/2/04 11/28/04 The North Museum of Natural History and Science, Lancaster, PA Booked
3/5/05 5/1/05 Coyote Point Museum, San Mateo, CA Booked
5/21/05 10/2/05 Utah Museum of Natural History, Salt Lake City, UT Booked
10/22/05 12/25/05 Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, Pacific Grove, CA Booked
1/14/06 3/12/06 Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, MO Booked
4/1/06 8/13/06 Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, Greenwich, CT Booked
9/2/06 10/29/06 Central Florida Community College-Webber Center, Ocala, FL Booked
11/18/06 1/14/07 Spartanburg County Public Library, Spartanburg, SC Booked
2/3/07 6/17/07 Virginia Living Museum, Newport News, VA Booked
7/7/07 9/2/07 Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, Santa Cruz, CA Booked
9/22/07 11/24/07 The Kentucky Library and Museum, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY Booked
12/15/07 2/10/08 California University of Pennsylvania, California, PA Booked
3/1/08 4/27/08 Teton County Library, Jackson, WY Booked
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Related Publications

None listed at this time. Please check back again.


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Press Release

The Unique and Fragile Wilderness of Caves Explored in New Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition

"Caves: A Fragile Wilderness," a new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution, looks at the unique and mysterious environment of caves. The exhibition's 39 color photographs, taken by 23 National Speleological Society (NSS) members who have explored and photographed caves from Alaska to Malaysia, are presented in four sections: "Entrances," "Passages," "Formations" and "Life."

The exhibition will begin a five-year national tour on Nov. 9 at the Oglebay Institute's Schrader Environmental Education Center in Wheeling, W.Va. "Caves" will remain on view through Jan. 5, 2003.

Whether underground, underwater, or within ice, caves have intrigued explorers since the days of early man. Adventurers have entered these hidden chambers seeking the thrill of exploring an unknown world and finding water-sculpted stone, crystalline formations and unusual wildlife. Contemporary cavers often combine spelunking skills with photographic expertise to bring these extraordinary places to light.

Caves provide essential habitats for unique plants and animals, some of which spend their entire lives in a dark, underground world. Caves are found in every state in the United States, as well as in most countries in the world. They come in all sizes and shapes and degrees of decoration. Some are wet and some are dry. And no two are the same.

Caves, however, are endangered by human activities both under and above ground. Carelessness, ignorance, as well as intentional vandalism can quickly-and permanently-damage a cave, its formations, its environment, and the plants and animals that live in it. Once destroyed, a cave and its contents cannot be recovered.

Working in cooperation with the National Speleological Society, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History developed "Caves: A Fragile Wilderness" to complement its presentation of the IMAX film "Journey into Amazing Caves." The exhibition is circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

The NSS is the largest caving organization in the world with more than 12,000 members in 180 chapters in the United States and abroad. For 60 years, the primary goals of the NSS have been to protect, conserve, explore and study caves. NSS members include explorers who discover new passages, biologists who study the secrets of life in caves, cartographers who define and map caves, and cave specialists who develop plans to protect and manage cave resources. NSS members volunteer thousands of hours a year to clean caves and restore damaged formations. For more information on NSS, visit:

The National Museum of Natural History is dedicated to maintaining and preserving the world's most extensive collection of natural history specimens and human artifacts. It also fosters critical scientific research as well as educational programs and exhibitions that present the work of its scientists and curators to the public. The museum is the world's most visited natural history museum and it remains the largest of the Smithsonian Institution's bureaus. For more information, visit:

Each year, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) shares the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside of Washington, D.C. One of the Smithsonian's four National Programs, SITES makes available a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown not only in museums but wherever people live, work, and play, including libraries, science centers, historical societies, community centers, botanical gardens, schools and shopping malls. In 2002, SITES celebrates 50 years of connecting Americans to their shared cultural heritage.

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